Recommend to your Librarian

Studying Modern Arabic Literature

Mustafa Badawi, Scholar and Critic

Edited by Roger Allen, Robin Ostle

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Shows how the study of modern Arabic literature was transformed by Mustafa Badawi

Prior to the 1960s the study of Arabic literature, both Classical and Modern, had barely been emancipated from the academic approaches of Orientalism. The appointment of Mustafa Badawi as Oxford University's first Lecturer in Modern Arabic Literature changed the face of this subject as Badawi showed, through his teaching and research that Arabic literature was making vibrant contributions to global culture and thought. Part biography, part collection of critical essays, this volume celebrates Badawi's immense contribution to the field and explores his role as a public intellectual in the Arab world and the west.

Key Features

  • Illustrates the critical affiliations and teaching methods of the outstanding scholar of modern Arabic literature in the 20th century
  • Assesses some of the problems faced by an outstanding intellectual and translator in bridging Arabic and western cultures
  • Includes studies from eminent specialists who were taught by Badawi, showing the type of work he inspired, including Julia Bray, Hilary Kilpatrick, Marliyn Booth, Miriam Cooke and Paul Starkey


Part 1: Alexandria to Oxford
1.The Cosmopolitan Alexandrian, Robin Ostle
2. Muhammad Mustafa Badawi in Conversation, Abdul Nabi Isstaif
3. Badawi: An Academic with a Vision. A Personal Testimony, Sabry Hafez
4. From the Shadow Plays of Ibn Daniyal to the Poetry of Philip Larkin: Mustafa Badawi as Editor and Translator, Derek Hopwood
Part II: The Academic Legacy
5. Beginning and End: Exploring the Qur’anic ‘Grand Story’, Mohamed Mahmoud
6. Modern Arabic Literature as seen in the late 19th Century. Jurji Murqus’s contribution to Korsh and Kipichnikov’s Vseobshchaya Istoria Literatury, Hilary Kilpatrick
7. The ‘Second Journey’ (al-Rihla al-Thaniya) of Muhammad al-Muwaylihi’s Hadith ‘Isa Ibn Hisham Re-visited, Roger Allen
8. Ataturk becomes Antar: Nationalist-vernacular Politics and Epic Heroism in 1920s Egypt, Marilyn Booth

9. Jewish Arabs in the Israeli Asylum. A Literary reflection, Miriam Cooke
10. Strange Incidents from History: Youssef Rakha and his 'Sultan’s Seal', Paul Starkey
11. Towards a Comparative Approach to Arabic Literature, Abdul Nabi Isstaif
12. Does Literature Matter? The Relationship between Literature and Politics in Revolutionary Egypt, Elisabeth Kendall
List of Contributors

About the Author

Roger Allen retired in 2011 from his position as the Sascha Jane Patterson Harvie Professor of Social Thought and Comparative Ethics in the School of Arts & Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. He was Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature in the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations. In 2009-10 he served as President of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA). Among his published works are: A Period of Time (1st [microfiche] edition, 1974; 2nd edition 1992); The Arabic Novel: an historical and critical introduction (1st edition 1982, Arabic edition, 1986; 2nd edition 1995, 2nd Arabic edition 1998); and The Arabic Literary Heritage, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998 (abbreviated paperback edition [2000] Introduction to Arabic Literature; in Arabic, Muqaddima li-al-adab al-`Arabi, Cairo: Al-Majlis al-A`la, 2003).. In addition to a large number of studies in book, encyclopedia and article form on modern and pre-modern Arabic literature, he has translated fictional works by a number of Arab writers, including Naguib Mahfouz, Yusuf Idris, `Abd al-rahman Munif, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, Hanan al-Shaykh, Salim Himmich and Ahmad al-Tawfiq.

Until 2009 Robin Ostle was Official Fellow in Modern Arabic at St. John’s College, University of Oxford. He is now Emeritius Research Fellow in Modern Arabic at St. John’s College, and is currently President of the Academic Council of the Maison Mediterraneenne des Sciences de L’Homme in the University of Aix-Marseille. His most recent major publication was the edited volume Sensibilities of the Islamic Mediterranean (I.B.Tauris 2008).


This volume showcases the personal, human side of Badawi as a mentor and teacher and shows how, through practical applications of his critical principles, Badawi's methods and conclusions have informed the study of Arabic literature. The result is a collection that traces not only the contributions of Badawi to his field but also the new appreciation of modern Arabic literature in the west that he helped to foster.

- Terri DeYoung, University of Washington